2009's Most Memorable IT Apologies

Google apology for Gmail outage. Rating: 8.5

Google's apology for the Gmail outage was another in a long line of apologies Google seems to be issuing lately. The apology certainly acknowledges the impact of the two-and-a-half hour outage -- "We know that for many of you this disrupted your working day. We're really sorry about this, and we did do everything to restore access as soon as we could….We know how important Gmail is to you, and how much people rely on the service." But a slightly more detailed description of some of the effects would have helped to personalize the experience for tens of thousands of users. Saying "We're really sorry about this" is a little brief. Of course, Google is in a class by itself given its expanding complex of varied products and services. But there is a concern that the apologies are become standardized -- repeatedly issuing very brief "outage" or "delay" apologies will do little to convey sincerity or a commitment to deal with the problems. Customer retention strategies tied to effective business apologies are essential for the survival of any company, even giants like Google. Standard Operating Apologies are never likely to work for very long.

Radisson Hotel apology for data breach. Rating: 7.8

This was a strong, proactive apology that managed to get right to the heart of the matter by accepting full (and early) responsibility for the data breach. The company also clearly acknowledged the effects on clients' trust and rights to privacy. The apology goes on to list several very specific correctives to avoid similar errors in the future. However, the PA team thought the hotel could have provided a token gesture by offering some form compensation for anyone clearly and directly affected by the breach -- credit towards their next stay, for example. Very few of the guests were likely affected by the breach, so this small (inexpensive) offer would have gone a long way.

(Here are links to our original article on the "Year in IT Industry Apologies," which includes the complete apologies' text, and a slideshow featuring abbreviated versions of the apologies.)

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